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Examining Mothers’ and Fathers’ Contributions to Ethnic-Racial Identity Development Anabelle Maya

Advised by Dr. Shauna M. Cooper



Studies have suggested that parental ethnic-racial identity is associated, indirectly and directly, with adolescents own ethnic-racial identity (ERI) and developmental outcomes. Although studies have shown that mothers’ and fathers’ ethnic-racial identity are individually related to adolescent adjustment, few studies have examined their collective influence. In particular, very little attention has been given to mother-father similarity or difference in ERI as well as potential implications for adolescents. The current study addressed three specific

questions: (1) How similar or different are mothers’ and fathers’ ERI? (2) How does mother-father ERI and similarity/difference relate to adolescent ERI and adjustment (e.g., depressive symptoms; self-esteem; school engagement; grades)? (3) How does adolescent ERI influence adjustment? The study sample was comprised of 99 African American mother-father dyads with adolescents. Paired t-tests and absolute difference scores were computed to examine parental similarity and difference in ERI (racial centrality; public and private regard). Pearson

correlations were conducted to explore: 1) how mothers’ and fathers’ ERI is related to adolescents’ ERI and adjustment and 2) how parental similarity/difference was related to

adolescent ERI and adolescent adjustment. Results indicated that fathers had significantly higher racial centrality than mothers. Absolute difference scores revealed that: 1) fathers and mothers were relatively similarly in private regard and 2) although fathers reported higher public regard and racial centrality, there relatively little discrepancy between parents. Additionally, results indicated that, while mothers’ centrality was associated with fewer depressive symptoms, fathers’ racial centrality was associated with greater public regard among adolescents. Although marginally significant, analyses revealed that a greater discrepancy in parents’ public regard was associated with less school effort among adolescents (r = -.181; p< .10). Results also indicated that adolescents’ who held more positive views about their racial group reported greater school effort, self-esteem, & higher grades. Overall, study findings suggest that mothers’ and fathers’ ERI, individually and collectively, has implications for adolescents’ own ERI and adjustment. Additionally, this investigation suggested that adolescents’ views about their racial group are related to adolescent adjustment.


Brief Introduction

Adolescence is a critical developmental context for identity development, in that youth become more aware of the self and of social structure, as well as the self within these social structures (Spencer et al., 2006; Cross, Strauss & Fhagen-Smith, 1999; Phinney, 1989). This may be particularly important for African American youth, in that adolescence also brings increased exposure to race-related discrimination and awareness of negative stereotypes (Brown & Bigler, 2005). A strong sense of ethnic-racial identity, which includes positive views about one’s racial or ethnic group, has been shown to cushion the harmful effects of negative messaging and race-related transgressions. For example, studies have found that for African American adolescents that have less positive views about their racial group, discrimination effects are often exacerbated (Brittain, 2011; Chavous et al., 2008). Further, investigation suggests that more positive aspects of racial identity acts as a protective factor and promotes wellbeing and adjustment (Chavous et al., 2008).

Though studies have found that parents play a primary role in strengthening ethnic-racial identity (Hayes, 2012; McHale et al, 2006), few studies have examined how mothers and fathers in relation to one another shape adolescent identity. Further, very little empirical evidence exists that examines how maternal or paternal similarity in ethnic-racial identity is associated with adolescent wellbeing. With this in mind, this investigation examines the individual and



Adolescence is a key developmental period in which youth become aware of the larger social inequities and begin to process their social identities (race; gender; class). Studies have shown that racial and ethnic minority children have greater awareness of discrimination and negative racial stereotypes as they develop greater cognitive and abstract thinking skills, which often aligns with the transition to adolescence (Brown & Bigler, 2005; McKown & Weinstein, 2003). For instance, research by Brown & Bigler (2005) found that African American early and mid-adolescents are more likely to attribute a discriminatory experience to their race, citing verbal insults and racial slurs as more frequent in occurrence. In addition to greater awareness, investigations have indicated that racial and ethnic minority adolescents, particularly African American adolescents, report greater frequency of race-related transgressions and victimization (Seaton, Caldwell, Sellars, & Jackson, 2008; Tynes et al., 2018; Tynes, Seaton, & Zuckerman, 2015). Collectively, this work suggests that awareness of discrimination interacts with other cognitive, situational, and individual variables to influence whether a child or adolescent will attribute negative experiences to discrimination (Brown & Bigler, 2005).


identity may be an important aspect of self-concept for minority children and youth that

contributes to positive academic and psychological adjustment. In particular, identity formation in relation to ethnic-racial group membership has been shown to be a central process in

adolescence and is related to important psychological outcomes (Chavous, Bernat, Schmeelk-Cone, Caldwell, Kohn-Wood & Zimmerman, 2003; Spencer et al., 2000). Research by Fischer and colleagues (2014) demonstrated that ethnic identity is associated with fewer depressive symptoms and loss of control. However, this effect only holds when stereotype threat, or fear that one is confirming negative beliefs about their ethnic-racial group, own-group conformity pressure, and other-group orientation are low (Fisher, Reynolds, Hsu, Barnes, & Tyler, 2014). As an illustration, in comparing further between monoracial and multiracial youth, results indicated that while multiracial youth may explore more of their ethnic-racial identity, monoracial Black youth express greater affirmation and sense of belonging. Seeing that monoracial Black youth experience fewer depressive symptoms as compared to multiracial youth, this suggests that attachment to group and sense of belonging are important factors for adolescent psychological outcomes.

Intervention studies also provide some evidence of the protective effects of ethnic-racial identity exploration and resolution (Umaña-Taylor, Kornenko, Bayless, & Updegraff, 2016). Additionally, studies indicate that greater racial pride and self-esteem may develop as a protective strategy, particularly in contexts where discrimination is frequent (Quintana, 2007; Romero, Edwards, Fryberg, & Orduña, 2014). Similarly, Wong et. al (2003) found that, while African American adolescents’ perceived discrimination in school impacted academic


important promotive and protective factor for African American male and female adolescents (Chavous et. al, 2008).

Ethnic-Racial Identity: Theoretical and Conceptual Considerations

Characterizing ethnic-racial identity as a theoretical construct allows for inferences to be made about the beliefs, behaviors and outcomes for those to whom ethnic-racial identity is salient. Early theories have provided a foundation for ethnic-racial identity development

research. For example, Erikson’s theory of Psychosocial Development (Erikson, 1968) theorizes that individuals progress through a set of eight stages in life during which the individual

confronts a specific conflict. Self-consciousness forms out of a reconciliation amongst self-esteem, self-image, and the perspective others have of us (Erikson, 1968; Stewart & McDermott, 2004). This has special significance for minority youth stepping into adolescence, as it is during this time that they begin to make meaning of themselves and their place in the world and begin to incorporate race and ethnicity into that meaning-making process. It has important implications for processes such as self-esteem, perceptions one holds of one’s group, and well-being.

Part of the meaning-making process includes grappling with internalizing one’s belonging to a group. Thus, ethnic-racial identity development also finds its roots in Social Identity Theory (Tajfel & Turner, 2001). Specifically, Tajfel and Turner (2001) classify groups as a form of social categorization, which serve the two-fold purpose of being a cognitive tool that not only allows individuals to orient to their social world, but also to orient their place, or social status, in the world. These scholars argue that identification with a social group sets one up with a referential or comparative system against which one can define their place in society, as well as measure similarity or difference to others in the group. This creates powerful questions


develops about one’s group and one’s place in it, thus driving the need for appropriate measures to capture these phenomena.

In turn, ethnic identity is considered to be a social identity and has been described as both the knowledge one has and the importance one attributes to their ethnic group (Phinney & Ong, 2007). It includes one’s thoughts, perceptions, feelings, and behaviors pertaining to membership to the group (Spencer, Icard, Harachi, Catalano, 2000). Similar to the MIBI, the Multigroup Ethnic Identity Measure (MEIM) captures an individual’s belonging (feelings of attachment) and exploration (engagement with one’s group) (Roberts et al., 1999). This is a normative process for adolescents, who undergo multiple psychological and cognitive changes that enhance their ability to conceptualize their ethnic-racial identity and its meaning to them (Umaña-Taylor et. al., 2014), including the ability to take on the perspective of others and integrate one’s own

experiences and those of others (Cooper et al, 2008). Clearly, given the larger racial context, ethnicity and race are particularly salient for racial and ethnic minority youth.

Although some frameworks have conceptualized racial identity as a developmental process, often represented as stage models (e.g., Cross, 1991; Phinney, 1990), other frameworks focus on the significance that individuals may place on their ethnic or racial group membership as well as beliefs and feelings about their group memberships (Sellers, Chavous & Cooke, 1998). For this investigation, we frame racial identity as a multidimensional construct and

operationalized by the Multidimensional Model of Racial Identity (MMRI; Sellers et al., 1998). It captures three dimensions of Black identity: centrality, private regard, and public regard. The


beliefs about their racial group. Public regard refers to the extent that an individual believes others hold positive or negative beliefs of their racial group. Given that ethnic-racial identity may be both promotive or protective, the identification of factors that lead to a positive and adaptive identity among African American adolescents remains an important line of inquiry.

Parental Contributions to Adolescent Ethnic-Racial Identity and Adjustment

While adolescents may experience increased autonomy during adolescence, studies show that parents are still influential for adolescent outcomes (Lopez-Tamayo et al., 2016).In fact, multiple investigations indicate that parents have both indirect and direct contributions to adolescent identity development (Dishion & McMahon, 1998). Although this is similar for most youth, research has specifically focused on understanding how parents help ethnic minority adolescents thrive, navigate and cope with discrimination (Chavous et al., 2008; Richardson et al., 2015; Caughy, Nettles, & Lima, 2011; Rowley, Cooper, & Clinton, 2005; Quintana, 2007; Wong, Eccles, & Sameroff, 2003). One pathway through which parents can help adolescents thrive is the promotion of an adaptive ethnic-racial identity (Rivas-Drake, 2011). Much of this research has suggested that a key parenting goal of ethnic and racial minority parents is helping to promote positive self-views and ethnic-racial identity development (Cooper et al., 2019; Rivas-Drake, 2011).


own ethnic-racial identity beliefs. These investigations have indicated that parents who have positive beliefs about their ethnic or racial group may be more likely to have adolescents who endorse the same beliefs and ideologies (Hughes & Johnson, 2001). Additionally, studies suggest that parental ethnic-racial identity may be related to more positive adolescent outcomes,

including depressive symptoms and academic adjustment (McHale et al., 2006; Neblett et al., 2009; Richardson et al., 2018).


examined direct associations or how similarity or difference in parents’ ethnic-racial identity beliefs may shape adolescents’ own ethnic-racial identity.

Theoretical Framework and Goals of the Study

This study is guided byPhenomenological Variant of Ecological Systems theory

(PVEST; Spencer, Dupree & Swanson, 2006). Although ecological models have been utilized to describe larger contextual influences, PVEST considers the contexts in which African American adolescents develop. Further, PVEST distinguishes itself by linking identity processes (self-appraisal and meaning-making) and context (school, family, neighborhoods, race/ethnicity, gender). This model, highlighting the transactional nature of family systems, considers how socio-cultural and cultural contexts interplay with youths’ developmental processes. The current investigation examines how parents, individually and collectively, inform the ethnic-racial identity of African American adolescents. The specific aims of this study are three-fold: (1) to investigate the individual ethnic-racial identity of mothers and fathers; (2) to examine how parent similarity/difference in ethnic-racial identity are related to adolescent ethnic-racial identity and adjustment; and (3) to explore how ethnic-racial identity is associated with adolescent

adjustment. In order to achieve the goals of this study, three specific questions were investigated: (1) How similar or different are parents’ ethnic-racial identity? (2a) How is mother and father ethnic-racial identity similarity/difference related to adolescents’ ethnic-racial identity and adjustment? (2b) How does parent similarity and/or difference relate to adolescents’ ethnic-racial identity? (3) How does adolescent ethnic-racial identity relate to their adjustment (e.g.,


Thirdly, this study predicts that higher concordance between parents will lead to more positive adjustment among adolescents.


Ninety-nine African American mother-father dyads with adolescent children (M = 12.01 years, SD = 1.10) comprised the sample of secondary data for this investigation. Participating fathers (M = 42.24 years, SD = 6.93) and mothers (M = 40.69 years, SD = 6.23) were located in a mid-sized city in the Southeastern United States. The median income for families in the

recruitment location was approximately $41,454 (U.S. Census Bureau, 2010). Age at birth of first child was 25.63 years (SD =5.78) for mothers and 25.60 for fathers (SD = 7.0). Mothers and fathers had an average of 2.5 (SD = 1.3; Range = 1-9) biological children. Seventy-six percent of participants were married and currently living with their spouse. The majority of fathers (74%) reported full-time employment status, with 14% reporting working part-time, and 13% of fathers reporting not currently being employed. Sixty-four percent of mothers reported working full-time, 17% reported part-time employment, and 19% reported that they were not currently

employed. Thirty-seven percent of fathers had a vocational or associate’s degree, 39% had a high school education or equivalent (GED), 18% received a Bachelor’s degree or greater, and 6% had less than a high school education. Forty-three percent of mothers had a vocational or associate’s degree, 33% of mothers had a Bachelor’s degree or greater, 21% had a high school education or equivalent (GED), and 3% had less than a high school education. Sixty-five percent of

adolescents were female. Procedure


2001), several strategies were incorporated to recruit African American families for participation in this investigation. In particular, specific strategies were developed or tailored, including flyers and advertisements, to target each family member (mother, father, adolescent). Families were recruited from a wide array of community sources (e.g., community centers, libraries, churches, barbershops; hair salons; sporting events). Additionally, a member of the research staff contacted and met with several community organizations and local businesses (e.g., interest groups; barbershops) to discuss the goals of the investigation, the target recruitment population, and to disseminate study flyers. The lead author and study staff of the original study included 2 African American males and 4 African American females.

Because sociodemographic diversity of the sample was a key goal, radio commercials targeting African American fathers and families were utilized to reach a broader population. An initial phone conversation or face-to-face discussion conveyed additional information regarding the study, including objectives, eligibility, and administration procedure. If families were interested in participating and met all study eligibility criteria, appointments were then scheduled with families to participate. To address any time availability issues, families had the option to complete the survey at the same time or schedule a time that worked for each family member.

Survey Administration Procedure. All surveys were administered in a University-affiliated community-based research center, which was designed to increase research


potential literacy issues, all participants were given the option of having the survey read aloud by a member of the research staff or completing individually. Only 2 parents (1 mother; 1 father) preferred having a staff member read their survey aloud. On average, surveys took

approximately 75 minutes to complete. Families were compensated $95 for participating. Measures

Parent Ethnic-Racial Identity. The Multidimensional Inventory of Black Identity scale (MIBI) was used to measure fathers’ and mothers’ racial identity beliefs (Sellers, Rowley, Chavous, Shelton, and Smith, 1997). Items were evaluated using a 5-point Likert scale (1=strongly disagree to 5=strongly agree). Both subscales of regard were utilized in this

investigation—1) Public Regard and 2) Private Regard. The Private regard subscale (6 items; α = .79) assesses an individual’s feelings toward their racial group (e.g., “Black people are great achievers.”). The Public regard subscale (6 items; α = .66) measures perceptions of how others view African Americans (e.g., “Black people are considered good by people of other races.”). The Centrality subscale (8 items; α = .72) assesses the extent to which a person defines her/himself with regard to race (e.g., “I have a strong sense of belonging to Black people.”). Appropriate items were reverse coded and mean scores were calculated for each subscale. Scores on the three subscales reflect higher levels of each construct.


items; alpha = .87) measured feelings towards own racial group (e.g., “I am happy that I am Black). Lastly, the public regard subscale (3 items; alpha = .79) assessed beliefs about how others perceived members of their race (e.g., “People think that Blacks are as good as people from other races”). Scores on the three subscales reflect higher levels of each construct. Adolescent Adjustment. Six indicators of adolescent adjustment were examined in this investigation: 1) self-esteem; 2) depressive symptoms; 3) self-reported school grades; 4) educational expectations; 5) school effort; 6) academic engagement.

Self-Esteem. Tenitems from Rosenberg (1965) assessed students’ global self-esteem (e.g., “I take a positive attitude toward myself”, “I feel I am a person of worth, at least on an equal basis with others,”). The scale ranged from 1 (strongly disagree) to 5 (strongly agree).

Reliability for this scale was adequate ( = .74). Previous investigations have utilized this scale with African American adolescents (Cooper, 2009).

Depressive Symptoms. Adolescents’level of depressive symptomatologywas measured with the Center for Epidemiologic Studies Depression Scale (CES-D; Radloff, 1977; 20 items). Participants responded on a 5-point scale (1 = rarely/none of the time; 5 = most/all of the time) how true each statement was during the past week (e.g., I feel that everything I did was an effort; I feel like crying). Reliability was .89. Higher scores indicate greater depressive


Educational Expectations. To measure adolescents’ educational aspirations, a 1-item question was used: “If you could go as far as you want in school, how far would you go?”


work as hard as I can.” These items were evaluated on a 5-point scale (1=strongly disagree;

5=strongly agree). Reliability for this sample was good ( = .79).

Academic Engagement (Skinner and Belmont, 1993; 15 items). Academic engagement assessed classroom engagement and re-engagement after failure. Sample items included, “If I can’t get a problem right the first time, I just keep trying” and “I participate when we discuss new material". Items were evaluated on a 4-point scale (1= not at all true; 4= very true). Reliability for this measure was .85.

Grades. Participants in the study were asked to evaluate their academic performance in four areas: math, science, social studies/history and English. For the individual scales, responses were on a 13-point scale (1 (F) to 13 (A+). A mean score was calculated to get students’ self-reported grade point average, with higher scores indicating a higher grade point average.


Data Analytic Strategy

To investigation research question 1, difference scores were computed using mother and father reports of ethnic-racial identity (centrality; public regard; private regard). Using


ethnic-racial identity. Also, discrepancy scores were calculated by computing the absolute difference between mothers’ and fathers’ standardized ethnic-racial identity scores. To examine research questions 2 and 3, bivariate relationships among parent ethnic-racial identity similarity and adolescent adjustment (ethnic-racial identity; self-esteem; grades) were computed.

Descriptive Statistics

To have a descriptive sense of parents’ socio-demographic and ethnic-racial identity variables, bivariate correlations were calculated (Table 1). For both mothers and fathers, all racial identity subscales (centrality; private regard; public regard) were inter-correlated with one another. Maternal age was positively associated with their racial centrality (r= .239, p < .05). Fathers’ age was positively associated with their public (r= .202, p < .05) and private regard (r=

.247, p < .05). Among fathers, work status was negatively related to their private regard (r=

-.219, p < .05), and mothers’ private regard (r= -.219, p < .05). Overall, there was some indication that socio-demographic factors were associated with ethnic-racial identity. Research Question #1: How similar or different are mothers’ and fathers’ ERI?

Paired t-tests were calculated and results suggest that mothers and fathers had some differences in their ethnic-racial identity. Regarding racial centrality, in comparison to mothers (M = 3.4669; SD = 0.48477), fathers’ (M = 3.6534; SD = 0.49348) racial centrality was


In examining absolute discrepancy scores (Table 3), results indicated that there was some discrepancy between mothers and fathers in their ethnic-racial identity. In fact, the magnitude of the differences across all dimensions were relatively similar, with absolute discrepancy of racial centrality (M = 1.1668; SD = .806), public (M = 1.14; SD = .781) and private regard (M = 1.11;

SD = .845) being approximately 1 standard deviation above the mean.

Research Question #2a: How do mothers’ and fathers’ ethnic-racial identity relate to

adolescent ethnic-racial identity and adjustment?

In examining correlations, no significant relationships were found between mothers’ ethnic-racial identity and adolescent grades, self-esteem, and engagement. However, mothers’ racial centrality was negatively associated with adolescents’ depressive symptoms (r= -.364, p <.01). As shown in Table 4, there was a marginally significant and positive relationship between fathers’ racial centrality and adolescents’ math grades (r= .196, p < .10). No other relationships were found between fathers’ ethnic racial identity and adolescent adjustment.

Research Question #2b: How does similarity/difference in mothers’ and fathers’ ethnic-racial identity relate to adolescent ethnic-racial identity and adjustment?

Results indicated that there were no significant relationships was found between parent ethnic-racial identity similarity/difference (mean scores) and adolescent ethnic-racial identity. Though, there some marginal trends. In regards to adolescent adjustment, the greater the absolute difference between mothers’ and fathers’ centrality, the lower the adolescents’ English grades (r= -.191, p < .10). A similar pattern was found for absolute difference between mothers’ and fathers’ public regard (r= -.190, p < .10). Additionally, when there was greater similarity

between mothers’ and fathers’ public regard, adolescents reported greater school effort (r= -.181,


When examining mean score differences in parental ethnic-racial identity, analyses revealed that, when mothers were higher in public regard in relation to fathers, adolescents reported higher private regard (r= .189, p < .10). Also, results suggested that when mothers were higher in public regard in relation to fathers, adolescents reported greater educational

expectations (r =- .221, p < .05). However, there was a marginal trend, indicating that when fathers were higher in public regard, adolescents reported greater academic engagement (r= -.205, p < .10).

Research Question #3: Is adolescent ethnic-racial identity relate to adolescent adjustment?

Results indicated some relationships between adolescent ethnic-racial identity and adjustment outcomes. A marginally significant positive relationship was also found between adolescent centrality and self-esteem. In terms of private regard, a significant positive

relationship was found between adolescent private regard and self-esteem (r= .393, p < .05) and math grades (r= .286, p < .04). A significant positive relationship was found between private regard and grades (math [r= -.286, p < .021]; social studies//history [r= -.248, p < .013]; science [r= .232, p < .05]). There was a marginally significant, positive relationship between adolescent private regard and English grades (r= -.190, p < .10). Private regard was related to greater engagement (r = .592, p < .001) and higher educational aspirations (r = .423, p < .001). Private regard was marginally associated with depressive symptoms (r= -.179, p < .10). School effort was positively associated with greater public (r= .308 p < .001) and private regard (r= .482, p

< .001). Public regard was positively associated with higher educational expectations (r = .232, p

< .001). Additionally, there was a marginally significant positive relationship between adolescent public regard and self-esteem (r= .190, p < .058).


In this study, we examined how mothers’ and fathers’ own ethnic-racial identity mapped onto adolescent ethnic-racial identity through the investigation of three sub-questions. Firstly, we compared the ethnic-racial identity of mothers and fathers, wherein we hypothesized that parents’ ethnic-racial identity would be similar and could also be complementary in nature. Secondly, we examined how each parents’ racial identity was related to adolescent ethnic-racial identity and adjustment, as well as how concordance related to each of these factors. We initially hypothesized that each individual parents’ ethnic-racial identity would be related to adolescents’, and higher concordance would correlate positively to adolescent reports of grades, self-esteem, and engagement, and would correlate negatively to depressive symptoms. Lastly, we explored how ethnic-racial identity in and of itself was associated with adolescent adjustment. We hypothesized that a higher ethnic-racial identity would lead to better school engagement, higher self-esteem and grades, and fewer depressive symptoms. We found support and partial support for all but one of our hypotheses. While parents’ ethnic-racial identity was not related to adolescent ethnic-racial identity, mothers’, fathers’, and adolescents’ ethnic-racial identity and parent concordance does relate to adolescent adjustment.


The second hypothesis was composed of two parts. The first, that mothers’ and fathers’ ethnic-racial identity would be related to adolescents’ ethnic-racial identity and adjustment, was partially supported. Although no relationships were found between mothers’ or fathers’ ethnic-racial identity and their child’s, some relationships were found between parents’ ethnic-ethnic-racial identity and adolescent adjustment. Mothers’ centrality was negatively associated with adolescents’ depressive symptoms such that mothers’ whose sense of belonging to a Black identity was low had children who reported more depressive symptoms. A weaker racial identity may leave mothers more vulnerable to the negative effects of discrimination, given that racial identity buffers against some of the deleterious effects it has on psychological well-being (Yap, Settles, & Pratt-Hyatt, 2011). Previous research has found that parents’ experiences with discrimination combined with muted behavioral responses to racism had negative impact on family dyadic relationships and psychological well-being (Ford et al., 2013). Their children, additionally, may not receive messages about how to deal effectively with discrimination.


The second part of the hypothesis, that discrepancy between mothers’ and fathers’ ethnic-racial identity would impact adolescent ethnic-ethnic-racial identity and adjustment, was partially supported. Although no significant relationships were found between parents’ ethnic-racial identity concordance and adolescents, when it came to adolescent adjustment, difference between mothers’ and fathers’ centrality and between mothers’ and fathers’ public regard were associated with lower English grades. Additionally, greater similarity between mothers’ and fathers’ public regard was related to more effort put forth by adolescents in school. These results may suggest that parental perceptions about others’ views of African American for adolescents, individually and in relation to one another, may have implications for their school outcomes (i.e., English grades; school effort) (Cooper et al., 2013; Brown, Linver, & DeGennaro, 2008).

Lastly, the third hypothesis predicting a relationship between adolescent ethnic-racial identity and adolescent adjustment was partially supported. In adolescents, higher public regard scores were associated with higher esteem. The same was true for racial centrality and self-esteem and private regard and self-self-esteem. Also, positive relationships were found between private regard and grades (math, English, and social studies/history), indicating that the higher the public regard of adolescents, the higher their grades. Our findings are in line with several studies indicating that a strong racial identity plays an important role in well-being for African Americans (Yap, Settles, & Pratt-Hyatt, 2011; Chavous et al., 2008; Brittian, 2012). This may be an indication that parents are imparting positive self-perceptions of their racial group, which could combat the devaluations that African American adolescents may encounter and become more aware of as they transition through adolescence.


The results reported from this study spark many questions regarding how and why parental ethnic-racial identity influences adolescent ethnic-racial identity and adjustment. Though the findings of this study do provide some insight into these effects, part of the

limitations of this study are that the results are correlational, and thus we are not able to establish causality. We do not know if there were additional factors that may have influenced the

relationships studied. For example, the majority of families were married couples residing together, not allowing us to capture how these processes may differ for non-residential couples. Future research should study the processes that mediate the relationships amongst parent ethnic-racial identity, adolescent ethnic-ethnic-racial identity, and adolescent adjustment. Additionally, several studies have found gender differences on the impact of different negative experiences on aspects of identity (Chavous et al., 2008; Brown, Linver, & DeGennaro, 2009). It is possible that

examining the effects of parent ethnic-racial identity on adolescent well-being and academic engagement varies for boys and girls, as well.

Also, there were some statistical limitations of this investigations. We utilized mean score differences to measure differences between mothers’ and fathers’ ethnic-racial identity.


data, should examine how mother-father similarity or difference in ethnic-racial identity may shape their children’s identity and adjustment.




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Table 1: Correlations among parent demographic characteristics and ethnic-racial identity

Table 2: Correlations among Parent Demographic Characteristics and Ethnic-Racial Identity

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12

1. Maternal Age 1.00

2. Maternal Education -0.02 1.00

3. Paternal Age 0.09 0.03 1.00

4. Paternal Education -0.04 -0.03 0.03 1.00

5. Adolescent Gender -0.01 0.21 -.213* -0.16 1.00

6. Adolescent Age 0.14 -0.09 0.07 0.01 0.14 1.00

7. Maternal Centrality .239* 0.01 0.18 -0.04 0.13 0.14 1.00

8. Maternal Private Regard 0.02 -0.15 -0.03 -0.15 -0.02 -0.03 .483** 1.00

9. Maternal Public Regard 0.02 -0.16 0.00 0.04 -0.21 0.16 0.15 .329** 1.00

10. Paternal Centrality 0.07 -0.16 0.14 .211* -.260* -0.08 -0.01 -0.08 0.01 1.00

11. Paternal Private Regard -0.09 -0.08 .247* 0.14 -0.07 -0.14 0.04 0.02 0.09 .522** 1.00


Table 2: Means of study variables for mothers and fathers

bp< .05

Father Mother

Mean (SD) Mean (SD) t Test Cohen’s d

Centrality 3.66 (0.49)b 3.47 (0.49)b 2.62 .39

Public Regard 3.25 (0.57) 3.19 (0.49) .72 .11


Table 3: Mean difference and absolute discrepancy scores for mother and father reports of ethnic-racial identity


Racial Centrality

Mean Difference (Mother - Father) -.186 .696 Absolute Difference (|ZMother – ZFather|) 1.17 .806

Private Regard

Mean Difference (Mother - Father) .076 .696 Absolute Difference (|ZMother – ZFather|) 1.11 .845

Public Regard


Table 4 Correlations among parental ethnic-racial identity, adolescent ethnic-racial identity, and adjustment

Table 3: Bivariate Correlations among Study Variables


1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

1. Racial Centrality (Mother) 1.00

2. Private Regard (Mother) .483** 1.00

3. Public Regard (Mother) 0.15 .329** 1.00

4. Racial Centrality (Father) -0.01 -0.08 0.01 1.00

5. Private Regard (Father) 0.04 0.02 0.09 .522** 1.00

6. Public Regard (Father) -0.12 -0.15 0.04 .479** .363** 1.00

7. Racial Centrality (Mother) .721** .400** 0.10 -.718** -.347** -.422** 1.00

8. Private Regard (Mother) .306** .674** 0.16 -.445** -.738** -.370** .524** 1.00

9. Public Regard (Mother) 0.20 .336** .635** -.375** -.231* -.766** .397** .393** 1.00

10. Centrality-Absolute Difference 0.06 0.11 0.04 .221* 0.02 .261* -0.11 0.06 -0.18 1.00

11. Private Regard-Absolute Difference 0.00 -.364** -0.04 0.03 -0.20 .212* -0.02 -0.09 -0.19 .258*

12. Public Regard-Absolute Difference 0.01 -0.14 0.09 0.18 0.08 .431** -0.13 -0.15 -.285** .272**

13. Racial Centrality (Adolescent) 0.03 0.05 0.11 0.00 -0.01 -0.06 0.02 0.04 0.13 -0.02

14. Private Regard (Adolescent) 0.10 0.14 0.10 -0.09 -0.09 -0.16 0.13 0.16 0.19 -0.13

15. Public Regard (Adolescent) -0.03 0.09 0.12 0.21 -0.05 0.13 -0.17 0.10 -0.03 0.13

16. Self-Esteem (Adolescent) 0.07 -0.09 0.05 0.06 0.02 0.00 0.01 -0.08 0.04 -0.02

17. Depressive Symptoms (Adolescent) -.364** -0.20 -0.09 -0.14 -0.06 -0.09 -0.16 -0.10 0.01 -0.07

18. Educational Aspirations 0.02 0.17 0.04 -0.15 -0.15 -0.06 0.12 .221* 0.07 0.12

19. School Effort -0.05 -0.09 -0.12 0.05 -0.11 -0.02 -0.07 0.02 -0.06 -0.06

20. Academic Engagement 0.06 0.16 -0.18 -0.02 -0.05 0.11 0.05 0.15 -0.21 0.08


Table 4 Correlations among parental ethnic-racial identity, adolescent ethnic-racial identity, and adjustment


11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18

1. Racial Centrality (Mother) 2. Private Regard (Mother) 3. Public Regard (Mother) 4. Racial Centrality (Father) 5. Private Regard (Father) 6. Public Regard (Father) 7. Racial Centrality (Mother) 8. Private Regard (Mother) 9. Public Regard (Mother) 10. Centrality-Absolute Difference

11. Private Regard-Absolute Difference 1.00

12. Public Regard-Absolute Difference .292** 1.00

13. Racial Centrality (Adolescent) -0.07 -0.07 1.00

14. Private Regard (Adolescent) -0.02 -0.06 .615** 1.00

15. Public Regard (Adolescent) 0.05 0.03 .487** .501** 1.00

16. Self-Esteem (Adolescent) 0.11 -0.05 0.17 .393** 0.19 1.00

17. Depressive Symptoms (Adolescent) -0.04 0.05 0.10 -0.18 -0.12 -.359** 1.00

18. Educational Aspirations 0.03 -0.01 0.20 .423** .256* .339** -0.04 1.00





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